Magazine article Chinese Literature Today

Staging Chinese Revolution: Theatre, Film, and the Afterlives of Propaganda

Magazine article Chinese Literature Today

Staging Chinese Revolution: Theatre, Film, and the Afterlives of Propaganda

Article excerpt

Xiaomei Chen. Staging Chinese Revolution: Theatre, Film, and the Afterlives of Propaganda. Nonfiction. New York. Columbia University Press. 2016. 384 pages. $60.00. ISBN: 9780231166386

While it may seem institutionalized, propaganda can be deeply intertwined with personal memories and provoke nostalgic emotions. Propaganda performances in China shape national and personal histories. Staging Chinese Revolution tells the story of socialist propaganda in the People's Republic of China (PRC) as manifested in its propaganda narrative on stage and screen. The book demonstrates convincingly that, contrary to popular understanding, propaganda is far from a monolithic genre, and that propaganda is not limited to totalitarian regimes. Moreover, PRC propaganda is "deeply lodged in personal memories and the nostalgia for a by-gone past."

The creation of propaganda, the author maintains, involves a "dialogic and dialectical process." The book covers a substantial number of important modern Chinese playwrights in a unique way that perhaps only Xiaomei Chen can accomplish. One of the leading authorities on Chinese performance culture, Chen examines both renowned and little-known plays. The comprehensive history provided within these pages is one of the most important contributions ofthe book. Chen is also the author of Acting the "Right" Part (2002), Occidentalism (1995), Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese I trama (2010; abridged edition 2014), and Reading the Right text (2003).

Two primary genres are examined, namely historical narratives of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and propaganda drama in theatre, film, and on television. While often dismissed by the journalistic discourses, propaganda, the author contents, is far from a "monolithic" and "top-down" practice characterized "solely by censorship and suppression of freedom. …

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